What are you like on your farm for regular mealtime breaks, the morning start and knockoff times. We were brought up as kids to all sitting down at regular times every day to eat together.
It was (and still is though I don't milk now) a 6.30 am start, that was dictated by the fact the churn milk collection lorry arrived in the village at 8am promptly and the milk had got to cooled and labeled by that time.
We were the fifth pickup and it was around 8.20am by the time he got round to us, we all, that is the cowman and the tractor driver who carried the milk and fed the calves went for there's as well. Father had his pigs to feed and clean out, us kids had hens ducks and geese to look after, and back at work again in half an hour, or school for us.
In the next village their milk wagon collect the milk about 10.30am, and they did not start milking until 8 o'clock, with a lunch time of 1.30pm, whereas our lunch break was always mid day for one hour, with milking at 3.30pm and all finished and fed by 5.30pm. In the next village it would be a 7.30pm finish.
Our time routine was more convenient particularly when the threshing machine came, he liked to fire up his outfit a 9am promptly with a 12.00 to 1.00pm break and finished at 5pm. The threshing outfit went from farm to farm up the village and a man was "borrowed" from each farm to make up the gang of nine needed for that job. Every one was on the same time routine and it worked out well.
Even now some seventy or so years later, I have kept to that same time routine. I can arrive in the house at meal times with the table ready laid, the Misses likes it, it gives her a regular routine knowing exactly when to expect us.
When I started farming on my own at Church Farm, we had the church tower and the church clock looking down at us all day from about a hundred yards distance with the chimes every quarter hour and gongs for the hour.
When we were at the distant field working we had the railway run through both The Beeches farm fields and the Church Farm fields, and between 3.15pm and 3.30 there would but three express steam engines flying through at full sped, the "Flying Scotsman", the "Caledonian" and another named train. ( It was said by the railway men that they had to clear that track of slower local trains at 3pm to allow these three train to go though at full chat) That was the time we went to take the cows down for milking.
I might add here that the gang of six lengths men who maintained the two mile stretch of line, (four lines, two up to London, two down to Scotland, I could never understand that.) would jump over into the corn field at harvest time and help stook the shoffs of corn when we were bindering, (wheat or oats) and two church bells later (14 days) would help load the farm wagons. Also at this time there was a goods engine driver who would slow right down by those fields and get his fire man to roll big lumps of coal off the tender for father to collect them later with the farm cart. They were all in the home guard together, and contraband got exchanged there every week, farther taking mainly potatoes and for the engine driver a half a pig, it was transported under the local bobbies nose by the wheelwright in a coffin. but thats another story
A man with a watch knows what time it is. A man with two watches is never sure.
Same blog with a couple of pictures here http://goo.gl/dy2Ecz
No I am not having a farm sale here, but a couple of years ago a neighbouring farm sold up and I sent quite a few items up to be sold back then. Now another neighbour is having a dispersal sale and again I am contributing some more of my deadstock, to be sold at his sale this spring. (2014).
I have been selling off items of machinery privately over the last three years as and when a buyer came up, but you get down to the last few thing that could still be worth selling for further use. I have been scrapping all that what I call "useful reuseable metal", you know, the sort of metal that you can make or mend stuff with, but its got to go at some point in time.
Everything is on a priority list, and I keep gleaning through my workshop scrap heap, some of my tools are the old Whitworth and AF spanners, but I fear they are getting frightfully close to going to the crusher. An old brushing hook kept for trimming nettles and briars off the electric fence, I doubt if the younger generation have ever heard of or would know what it is, and that was the way we cut all the hedges not fifty years ago.
An old scythe, when you see them using them on the television programs, it make you cringe at the mess they are making. not a clue how to use or sharpen it. The old men, before they had lawn mowers would be cutting the lawns around these stately homes, not as short I grant you, but it was always a very tidy job.
The last serious job I remember with scythes was to cut a "road" round the corn fields (wheat barley and oats, for those way over the pond). It was absolute sacrilege to run a wheel, or run corn down with wheels back then before the days of the combine. A few days before we were ready for bindering, two gangs of three would head one each way round the outside of the fields of corn, one scything, two picking up the crop into bundles and tying them with what we called a bonce of straw, no string. It was just wide enough for the old Standard Fordson to travel pulling the binder for the first time round.
You just get carried away, just thinking back on how we managed, setting too with a two furrow plough in a fifteen or twenty acre field in winter with no cab, but that just another tale for another day.
I just wish it was as easy and simple as I make it sound in the verse I writ a couple of years ago,
The years have come the years have gone, its time to sell the lot,
And now I've got to organize, the sale of all I've got,
To pull it out the sheds and then, n’ lay it out in rows,
For all and everyone who comes, to have a dam good nose.
The tools and all machinery, bought it years ago,
Ploughed the land and worked it, encouraged crops to grow,
Harrowed all the grass in spring, soon as the Daff’s appear,
Cattle would be turned out, and sold that big fat steer.
Job to know where to start, and find things long forgotten,
Things we used like brushing hooks, n’ pitch forks stale gone rotten,
Shovels spades and muck forks, all standing where last used,
Some I've had a long time, and some they were abused.
Workshop that’s a nightmare, the scrap ruck will increase,
Wading through the junk to find, that lost now found tailpiece
All the things you save as spares, but things move on apace,
Out dated now and far too small, with newer one replaced.
The tractor that’s seen better days, reliable it has been,
Well used and got a loader on, could do with a dam good clean,
Worked it hard all day long, every day of the year,
Last day now it has arrived, and to the field must steer.
A second one it’s older still, with a draughty cab,
Tyres worn and torn about, n’ the paints a little drab.
Steering wobbles brakes no good, useful to have about,
Its winter when it wonner start, I have a dam good shout.
Be sorry to see an empty yard, and all the cleaned out sheds,
The damp old house abandoned, and empty old farmstead,
Silence now for few a weeks, until new folk move in,
Then once again start from new, new livestock make a din.
No race can prosper till it learns that there is as much dignity in tilling a field as in writing a poem.
Booker T. Washington (1856 - 1915)
There are a couple of pictures that should be with this blog, conna get the up on this site, but they are on here, http://goo.gl/MMH9LD
Over my lifetime there are not many jobs that I have not
tackled, and as with every job, the more you do of that particular job the
better you get at it.
On the domestic side
Take hair dressing for example, not that far fetched from
sheep shearing, or cattle clipping, when we were kids (four of us lads), father
used to cut our hair with clippers that he had to squeeze with his hand to
operate the blade.
The problem was when he was in a hurry, which he often was,
he would push the clipper up the back of ya neck faster than what he was
operating the blade, the result was he was pulling our hair by the roots. He
did make a good tidy job, and many compared it with how he thatched his ricks
of hay and corn, combed down to the eves and clipped up the sides.
On the workshop side
Take welding, unless you get a bit of tuition, and then get
plenty of time to put into practice what you have just learnt, its no use. In
my case it’s a matter of tapping the rod onto the metal until you get a spark,
then keep melting the rod into the joint. In reality, the rod more often than
not gets stuck and welded to the job. After a vigorous twisting and pulling it bleaks
free, peeling and cracking the coating off the rod making it impossible to
strike an arc to get going again. Must
admit, my welding has been called and likened to pigeon *** welding. So I get
by on doing repairs that are not too crucial or to essential, just bog standard
I’ll never be a “sparkie”
All things electrical are very mystical to me, as soon as a
wire disappears into a wall, it come out a different colour at the other end.
Two way light switches, for example, they beat me every time,
its okay to fit a new bulb holder, or new three pin plug and simple thing
Another thing that is always awkward for me that does not
crop up very often is the trailer light sockets and plugs, with , is it seven
or nine wires to connected in to
correspond to what the vehicle wires want to convey. Wiring looms, alternators, and the back or
the inside of a vehicle dash boards are
way beyond my comprehension, Fuses I can
manage, but on the modern tractor there can be thirty or more, thank goodness
for the instruction book, it lists and numbers them and what strength of fuse
I don’t know the key
to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody
Bill Cosby (1937)
Farm jobs you would not believe take place
On the farm you build up skills far beyond what you can imagine
a farmer would normally be expected to do.
Living out in the country you tend to become an emergency
doctor (to stem a vigorous flow of blood), nurse (patch it up), vet surgeon
(castrate, dehorn inject), executioner (occasionally a animal or bird needs to
be put down), undertaker (and buried), on occasions pathologist (why it died),
investigator (what caused it), policeman (who caused it), poacher (if you can’t
beat them join them) , curator (show folk what we do), escapologist (get out of
a hole that you’ve just jumped in, to escape a creditor or the taxman), and
environmental wildlife conservationist (drive round the peewit nests instead of
driving over them) and many more peripheral jobs that crop up when there’s no
one else about to help.
I know I jest about some of the jobs we do and how we do
them, but they all crop up at some time or other, and you deal with them how
you know best, its all about survival, and helping others.
Do unto them as you
would like them to do for you.
The Work it Wonna goo Away
When ya know youve
got to work, and it wunna go away,
Put ya back into ya
work, and ya hope its gonna pay,
You’re are the owner
and the boss, and the only worker too,
The hours dunna
matter, cuz ya work the night right through.
Ya worry bout the
bills, and wonder how ya gonna pay,
The bills that come
so regular, n’ put them out the way,
Till ya sell and get
some money, it’s so hard to save at all,
As if a hole in ya
pocket, n’ its empty every time I call.
Ya look back upon ya
dreams, of how it all should have been
To build up on the
business, and the forecast now unseen,
Expansion every year,
and just getting in your stride,
N’ the tax man
catches up with you, skins you of your hide.
Countryman (Owd Fred)
Because of my blog, which started in August 2008, started me writing
things down as they came to mind, all about my life and my family and village, and
the folk who helped to rear me (as well as other than my parents,) and mould my
life within a small village community
On looking back cannot believe the number of blogs written,
and found that the older folk over here in UK are the ones
most likely to be interested in what I've writ,
but unfortunately most of the older generation don't have a
computer. (Two of my brothers included)
So I started to print off odd blogs and send them a copy to read
by "snail mail" (that’s the UK postal service). Then stared to
put them into book form, and eventually found I had filled enough to
fill over two hundred pages four times, (four volumes).
The debate then came to finding a title for the book/s and with
the picture of our stack yard in the back ground and the hay barn almost full
of hay (see picture) on the cover, the first suggestion was
"Fifty Bales Of Hay" which I thought
was absolutely brilliant .
It must have been a tongue in
cheek suggestion, (by one of my learned tutors) so I proceeded to print
off a couple of front covers to show the younger generation in my family
Me/I having lived a very sheltered life had never
heard of a book called "Fifty Shades Of Grey" this was very
quickly pointed out by my family, that I had been thrown a "red
herring" and took the bait hook line and sinker`.
Apparently the "Shades Of Grey" book is of a lurid and
sexual nature, and the "Fifty Bales of Hay" spoof I had been fed, and
was told it would sell like hot cakes on the internet.
I was reprimanded about my alleged ignorance
(by our two daughters) and the two printed cover were hastily shredded, so
the preferred title now is settle down to "The Longest
I have a printer that collates (if that's the right
word) the pages and I have a press that hold six books at a time, while I
glue the pages and a guillotine to trim the finished books. So I write,
print, publish, and sell my own books, about two hundred so far, the proceeds
of which go to our preferred charity "Headways North
Staffs" it goes to help people who have
suffered severe head injuries.
My next leaning curve is to get them published on line, and am
being advised as to how to
tackle this and what soft ware is needed.
The attached picture is a copy of the front and back cover of
the book, (the colour reproduction on that attachment is poor) but it
gives you an idea of what I'm going.
This is one of my first blogs
The longest swath or the longest furrow is always the one round the
outside of the field.
I seem to walk and work about the farm these
days in a reflective daze, half looking back, and half looking forward, with
every thing starting to overtake my way of working. - - - - - -
Looking now we don't have the same labour force, but is it so hard to
cut that last back swath of hay/silage right up to the ditch or plough
that last furrow and plough out the corners properly.- - - - - - -
Thrift was the by word then, and we seem to have lost that word from the
modern day vocabulary, it's become a throw away society now, nothing is
repaired, if it don't work chuck it, and get a new one. - - - - - -
Full story here http://yewsfarm.blogspot.co.uk/
mid seventies looming up, and near ten years beyond where most folk have retired
we have now found a house to retire to next door but two from the farm, (if you
count the local pub as a house,) which over looks some of the fields we now
will be a tremendous down sizing of all house hold items, and can envisage a
huge bonfire in the back garden of large old fashioned furniture that has been
so lovingly cared for all the years we have lived here.-----------read on
No more having to open six or eight sets of curtains every morning, and from the bed to the bathroom and then down to the kettle in the kitchen is quite literally a sixty yards (or paces, I did count them) trek before ya get ya first cup of tea.--------------read on
used to waking on a winters morning to a hard frost, with frost on the inside of
the widows, this will be a sauna, but I can well do without the damp these days,
it gets into ya bones, so on that count alone it will be nice to move to a
smaller and warmer house, even if we’ve been a bit late getting to
To read the whole blog click here http://bit.ly/U7d8gS
Its now (2012) been fifty three years since I started farming at the age of
twenty one. At that time, and fresh out of Farm College you are prickling with enthusiasm
to bring in the latest ideas and the new ways of working.
In hindsight its always a bit rash to commit to new ideas before they have been
proven, so it was my fathers frowns and disapproval that tempered my enthusiasm
at some of the thing I wanted to try out.
Read the whole blog here http://yewsfarm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/oh-how-we-love-land-each-day-that-we.html
Just a look back in my own farm diary of 1962 reveals how
farming had just started to recover after the war time restrictions. Machinery inventions
and innovations had helped with the shortage of man power, seeing a revolutionary
turning point in farming.
In January 1962 we were threshing shoffs of corn out
of the stackyard that had been bindered at harvest time (August 1961) just the
same as it had been done for almost fifty or more years before that. Then in
September 1962 we had a combine in to harvest the wheat and oats, the grain of
which was bagged and the sacks slide off the combine onto the ground for
carting before it rained.
Full story here ---
Yesterday we had an incalf heifer looking as if she was ready to start to calve
and she was looking around where to calve, just in the late evening.
Two hours later and just going
dark, her water had broken and she had got two calves with her, but they looked
remarkably dry and well licked from the distance. She had if fact taken
to two other young calves that were only a day or so old and keeping
them close to her. The danger here was that when she eventually had her own calf
she may follow one or both of the calves she had “adopted” and forsake her own
I watched a program about War
Horses the other night, only to realise how many were taken from this country
and North America to work abroad during the
First World War.
What an important role they
played in the transportation of supplies out to the front line in the most
During the Second World War
horses were still in short supply but possibly for a very different reason.
Our Government seems to "Gold Plate" every last rule no matter how petty and
small, where as the same rules in France are far more relaxed. For
example, all cattle have to have two ear tags, if you’re unlucky enough to have
been chosen for an inspection, and if they find a beast with one tag missing you
stand to have your entire SFP stopped or percentage deduction.
More on this story here
Not so many bulls about farms
these days, particularly the dairy herds. Before the advent of Artificial
Insemination, you often reared a bull calf out of one of your own best cows, the
resultant heifers coming into your herd and completing their first lactation,
would be very hit and miss. It was not uncommon to see cows with curled up toes and long pendulous udders often having front teats pointing east west. Also you had three more years of calves on the way
before the bull had been proven.
Big cats in
The discussion has come around
again, about whether there are big “big cats” loose around UK. There has
never been one found dead or died, but then you never seem to find dead deer or
dead badgers other than road kill.
My own experience in 1992 in a field of twenty five eighteen month old store
cattle standing in the middle of a sixteen acre field one frosty morning.
They were just standing in the centre of the field in a tight huddle
at first light, and from the distance the steam was rising off them in
the still morning air.
Full story here http://yewsfarm.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/big-cats-in-uk.html
We seem to have run into a period in life when all the machinery seems to have
taken a wobble at the same time and cannot shake it off. All attempts to put
thing right have been thwarted and mechanics who are working on them cannot just
put their finger on the particular problem.
Take the Agrotron tractor for instance,
for a long while it had difficulty in drawing its fuel from its own fuel tank,
while working its was no trouble but left over night and its fuel in the tank
low, you would have to wind the engine for a little while until it had pumped
its fuel back up to the engine.
Its not every Christmas that
its as cold as last year 2010, when we had sustained cold and frost for some six
weeks along with more snow than we had had for years.
Looking back in the diary just
fifty years ago we had a very frosty spell over the run up to that Christmas
1961, we had turkeys to kill pluck and dress.
Here is a brief summery of
activities of happenings around the farm and the blogs 2011. Not
enough room to do it diary fashion day by day so here goes.
I was asked “which is your favourite blog” the answer was,-- The
Longest Swath, and I was honoured to have it published on the Farm-n-Wife web sitesite in the middle of the Mid-west USA. http://farmnwife.com/ with
the Badge 'Featured Farmer of the week' .
looking back in the old farm diary on what we were doing just fifty years
This was the nearest they had to a cattle crush,
and note the cattle, young stock all had horns, the cows would be tied up in the cowsheds by the chain. There are a few horses in the back ground.
Gardening as a Pastime(with tractors always in the
Many potential gardeners who work, and travel some distance to and from work,
just physically do not have much time to do what they would like to do in the
Then there is the people who just cannot stand gardening, like a
neighbour we had in the village, (the wheelwright), his wife loved her garden,
and he was committed to mowing the lawns front and back, and always commented to
who ever would listen, that his garden should be tarmac end to
end, side to side, then each spring he could just sweep it off and
paint it green.
Read more and see the pictures here http://bit.ly/uErNUn
Every now and then, in the pantry the last lump of cheese
would be going dry and crumbly, but it was still all used, very very rare for
good food to be wasted back then.
I’m not talking about
the fiddly bits of cheese you see in the shops and super markets these days all
fancy wrapped and stamped with a sell by date. This was a real wedge off a whole round block of Cheshire and Cheddar Cheese,
probably fifteen or twenty times the size mentioned above.
Read on http://yewsfarm.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/cheese-and-mustard-1940s.html
This was tale about what happened to my brother and I when I was 9 years old and
my brother just over 6years . I was just old enough to work helping the then
cowman Philip to load kale for the cows, a job he did every afternoon ready for
the following days feeding.Philip had a tremendous scramble
to get us out,
I know I was first out and standing by on my own in a
daze, and after a short while my younger brother Robert emerged all muddy an
read on here http://bit.ly/uX6J8I
Occasionally in life you get
the uneasy and unsettled feeling
when you’re unsure of the future and not certain as to which way life is taking
you, well I got that feeling this last few months.
Looking back over the years I
got it when I first started school, then at eleven when we went to the big
school in town, but that was soon over come within a few days when you got to
know your way around.
The next time was when I got
married and got my own house when I set up on my own farm (tenanted farm), then
every now and then when things did not go how you would like, like loosing a
calf or even worse loosing cow. I was always reminded by my father that “Where
you have livestock, you have dead stock”.
Some of these feeling pass
quickly, gone in a few days, other times they last for weeks and weeks or so it
seems until you get used to the new situation. When in one of these periods I
find it hard to concentrate enough to even write a blog, so I thought I would write a blog about
this subject to see how many other folk have the same unsettled feelings and
how they get through them.
Perhaps I better start to
reveal what is causing my unsettled
no pictures, the reason will all become clear.
A Sunday morning brush with the
One Sunday morning
ten years ago I was taking a load of rotted muck with the tractor and
trailer down to an allotment in town, on the way I had to pass the police depot
along side the M6 motorway.
As I was loaded I did a rolling
exit out of a road junction, but unfortunately a motorway patrol car was just
coming down off the bridge, (they were just going for a tea break, and thought I
had no brakes),
This was drawn by the Standard Fordson
I remember as a kid of six or seven how we loved to have a ride on the empty
trailers back to the field to be loaded. On this occasion I had just missed my
chance for a ride and I was on my own, when I though I would run and catch up
and climb onto the back end of the wagon.
When I caught up with the outfit, I thought I could put my foot in the swinging
rope and claw myself up the backend of the gormers and onto the trailer. But it
did not turn out like that at all, having slipped with my grip I fell backwards
to the ground, it was only a few inches off the ground, but fell. Trouble was
one foot was still in a loop of rope and it started dragging me across the
fields, ---read on.
With one wheel on the grass and a steady eye for the road beyond she got
through, slowed the cob to a trot she never looked back. If she had looked back
as some of her family helpers did, she would have seen a trap still moving along
the road slowly, the driver on his back side in the middle of the road, and the
axle and wheels of the above mentioned vehicle twisted and half way over
the hedge. Read more-- http://yewsfarm.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/grandma-always-had-very-strong-best.html
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